What I'm Reading: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Tuesday, July 22, 2014
I did it! I finally finished the A Beautiful Mess May book club selection, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (all 755 pages of it). Let me tell you, I thought I would never get it finished! It's not that I didn't enjoy the book. I felt that the book dragged on in a few sections (namely when the main character goes off to live with his father in Las Vegas, Nevada- that section could have been reduced by a few hundred pages), but overall I felt this was a good read. 
Image from Amazon.com

Here are Emma Chapman's questions for the ABM book club discussion and my thoughts (WARNING: Spoilers Ahead):

1. Probably the most obvious question that we must discuss first is what is the goldfinch? What does the painting represent in Theo's life (or in general)? 
I think the goldfinch is the catalyst which seems to steer Theo's path in life and hold it all together. Initially, Theo is drawn to visit the painting with his mother because it holds special meaning to Her. But it's the painting that leads him to meet Welty (and consequently Hobie and Pippa) and it also leads to his re-acquaintance with Boris in adulthood. 
At the end of the book, Theo talks about how the goldfinch painting is able to touch it's admirers in a way that's unique to each individual admirer and how it is able to exist unchanging as if it's untouched by time and therefore more real that human reality. I think that because the painting meant so much to his mother and Welty that he kind of clings to it to preserve some memory and connection to his mother (especially) and to Welty.
2. What do you think of the Barbour family? They take Theo in after his mother's death, but do you get the feeling that they resent this effort, or not? What do you think of their reaction to Theo later in life?
I thought that overall the Barbour family (particularly Mr. and Mrs. Barbour and Andy) meant well and probably initially likened taking in Theo as another charity project, but they probably hadn't planned or intended for Theo to stay with them permanently. However, I think that the younger Barbours like Platt, Kitsey and Toby may have resented Theo because they may have felt that Theo received special/preferential treatment from the Barbour parents and took the parents attention away from the other kids. 
As someone who has lost a parent, I think that the Barbour's were probably genuinely pleased to be reacquainted with Theo following the deaths of Andy and Mr. Barbour to try to preserve some of the memories from the past when both Mr. Barbour and Andy were around.  
3. What do you think of the way fellow peers and adults treat Theo after his mother's death? Were you surprised by some of their reactions? Have you ever experienced anything similar (from either side)? I remember a young man losing his home (by a house fire) when I was in middle school, and I remember having no idea what to say to him to communicate that I cared, but I couldn't really do anything for him. It's a tough feeling, so I could understand some of the students simply choosing to avoid Theo.
Since Theo's mother died during a major news-worthy event, I think it's natural for other people to either be super curious and want to ask tons of questions about what happened or shy away and wait for the person experiencing loss to make the first move. 
4. What about the role of chaos in this book. Do you think the world is chaotic and full of experiences that we cannot have control over (like the explosion that killed Theo's mother)? Do the characters in the book feel this way? How does it shape the choices of their lives?
After the explosion Theo keeps trying to blame himself for his mother's death by thinking that if he hadn't gotten in trouble at school that day that his mother would still be alive-which points to the idea that perhaps initially Theo felt that could have had some control over his destiny. But it's pointed out at the end of the book that Theo feels like life is already predetermined and that you have little control over your destiny, whereas Boris thrives on the idea that the world is chaotic and that good choices don't necessarily result in a good outcome and you just take it in stride. I think it's Theo's belief that life is already pre-determined and out of our control that leads Theo to continually make self destructive choices like take drugs and make poor investments. But, I tend to subscribe more to Boris's view that the world is chaotic and full of experiences that we cannot control, which I think enables Boris to be able to perceive others in a more realistic way (i.e. Theo's father) and have a clearer head to problem-solve and come up with solutions to get himself and Theo out of their jams ( i.e. how Boris was able to retrieve the painting for Theo).

5. I don't usually ask this, as I often think it's assumed, but did you like the book? Did you stay up all night reading it, or did you find it a chore? One of my favorite things about this book club experience is seeing how others react to a book, often in different ways than me. 
As I said at the top of this post, overall I found this book an enjoyable read- it's got art, drama, action, a bit of mystery, but I felt that parts of this book dragged out a little longer than they needed to and THIS BOOK IS REALLY LONG. Don't get me wrong, I've read books with many more pages than The Goldfinch, but  I often don't complete those books in a months time either. I like to read pages slowly to take it all in.
I found that I didn't really like many of the characters in this book. I wanted to like Theo as he is the main character and initially felt I could empathize with him because we've both lost a parent, but I couldn't relate to his teenage and adult drug binges and other self-destructive behaviors or his approach to life and by the end of the book I didn't really like his character at all. I also found it hard to relate to Boris and while I do relate to his approach to life, I couldn't really relate to his lifestyle. I found most of the Barbour family to be a bit pretentious and found my favorite characters to be Hobie, Welty, Pippa, Andy and Mrs. Barbour.
 Also, there a few holes and questions left at the end of the book that are a bit frustrating such as:
  • How was Theo able to survive the explosion when so many other's around him perished? Is this an example of the chaos theory?
  • How did Boris end up retrieving the painting in Amsterdam?
  • Did Theo actually get away with murder!?
  • So is Theo's engagement to Kitsey officially off?
  • When Theo finds out that he doesn't actually have The Goldfinch painting anymore couldn't he have just told Lucius Reeve and put an end to the blackmail? Did Lucius drop his blackmail threats at the end of the book?
Side Note:

A reader on the A Beautiful Mess comments section also pointed out the parallels between The Goldfinch and Harry Potter; not just simply that Boris refers to Theo as Potter or that Theo becomes an orphan, but they thought Welty and Hobie had kind of a Dumbledore/ Hagrid type of relationship. I just wanted to say that I totally pictured the Hobie character as a more modern day Hagrid in my mind- I even gave him Hagrid's voice. Did anyone else picture him like that?

Read any good books lately? Are you participating in the A Beautiful Mess book club? Have you read The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt? If so, what did you think of the book?
I've got a bit of catching up to do for the book club. Next up for me is June's book club selection, The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick (author of Silver Linings Playbook), followed by July's selection, #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso (founder of Nasty Gal), and then August's selection, Flight Behavioir by Barbara Kingsolver. 

5 Beauty Essentials Every Woman Should Consider in Her 30s

Monday, July 21, 2014
Oh God! They did it again! Last week I responded to WhoWhatWear's post about the 25 Items You Need to Toss in Your 30s by writing my own post called the 25 Items You Definitely Might Want to Consider Tossing in Your 30s, and no sooner did I post that then did WhoWhatWear partner, Byrdie, create another "must" list for people in their 30s called 5 Beauty Essentials Every Woman Needs in Her 30s. And like the previous post, I felt a need to respond to this one too.

Before we take a look at the list, I want to note that Byrdie's idea for the list is based on the idea that women in their 30s are typically concerned with advancing their careers, keeping up with mundane tasks like paying bills and maybe even trying to start a family (and of those things, I can only releate to bill paying) so their selections are meant to work hard and help women to relax and have a little "me" time.

Let's take a look at their list and see where I stack up:

OLE HENRIKSEN Rub N' Buff Salt Scrub

PHILOSOPHY Vanilla Coconut Shampoo, Shower Gel & Bubble Bath

1) A body scrub that takes you to your happy place
I'm all for finding a product that takes you to your happy place, but I don't think it necessarily has to be a body scrub. Do I own a body scrub? No. Do I occasionally put a facial scrub on my body? Maybe. But if I want to go to my happy place, I prefer a bubble bath or perfume to a scrub.

Dior Vernis Gel Shine and Long Wear Nail Lacquer

2) A nail polish that won't flake on you.
I'm pretty sure that everyone prefers a nail polish that doesn't flake off right away, but I'm not willing to pay $25 to get it.

KATE SOMERVILLE IllumniKate ™ Concealing Eye Cream

SMASHBOX Camera Ready BB Cream SPF 35

3) A concealer that does it all-so that you don't have to (namely fights fine-lines, wrinkles and puffiness) 
I think that concealer is an important tool to have in your make-up box, but right now I'm still into BB Creams. The BB cream above by SMASHBOX gives coverage, has oil protection, SPF 35 and it helps reduce fine lines and wrinkles. I love a product that can do multiple things at once!

BENEFIT COSMETICS Hydrating Tinted Lip Balm

4) A lip balm that pulls your look together.
Tinted lip balms have been a staple in my purse for several years. I like the fact that they're both hydrating and they give my lips a little bit of color and polish. I've almost always got a tube of Maybelline's Baby Lips or Burt's Bee's tinted lip balm nearby.

CLARINS UV Plus HP Broad Spectrum SPF 40 Sunscreen Multi-Protection

5) A sunscreen you'll actually wear.
This is something that everyone needs regardless of age. The best way to have great skin is to take care of the skin you've got. My go-to daily sunscreen is Oil of Olay's Completed All Day Moisturizer with SPF 15.

And here are a few beauty essentials that Byrdie overlooked:

FRESH Rose Floral Toner

  • Toner
The first thing I apply to my face every morning is a toner. It helps to wake me up in the morning and help my skin feel refreshed. My favorite right now is Lush's Tea Tree Water toner.

SEPHORA COLLECTION Pomegranate mask - Anti-fatigue & energizing

  • Face Masks
When I really want to relax and pamper myself I reach for a face mask. I prefer masks that are hydrating and work for all skin types.

What do you think about Byrdie's 5 Beauty Essentials? Are there any beauty items that you think every woman (or women of a certain age) should have? Let me know in the comments below.

What's Making Me Laugh: Weird Al

Sunday, July 20, 2014
This week American music-parody artist, "Weird Al", released a new album called Mandatory Fun, which, as the title suggests, is pure fun. To promote the album, "Weird Al" is releasing a new music video everyday from July 14-21st parodying such songs as Pharrell's "Happy",  Lorde's "Royals", Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" and Iggy Azalea's "Fancy". So far my favorite is "Weird Al"'s "Happy" parody called "Tacky" because of the huge list of celebrity cameos. If you haven't seen the videos, check out the clips below and be sure to check on "Weird Al"'s website for updates on the latest music videos. They'll make you feel like a kid again.



"Word Crimes"


What's your favorite "Weird Al" song? Let me know in the comments below.

What I'm Listening To: Becky G- "Shower"

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Recently the blog, Hello Giggles published an article on why Becky G's "Shower" song should be the anthem of 2014, which prompted me to give the song a listen, and  now I quite agree with them. I mean, the song isn't quite as catchy as last year's Daft Punk instant classic, "Get Lucky", but the song does capture all of the fun of the summers of our youth in a non-offensive way.

Do you have your own song for Summer 2014 that I should consider? Let me know in the comments below.

25 Items You Definitely Might Want To Consider Tossing By Age 30

Friday, July 18, 2014
This week the celebrity/ fashion blog WhoWhatWear wrote a post about the 25 Items You Definitely Need to Toss by Age 30 (which was inspired by Olivia Wilde's well written list of Do's and Don'ts of Turning 30 from Glamour magazine).

Olivia Wilde is so cool!
Image from the post http://www.whowhatwear.com/turning-30-fashion/slide1
As someone who may or may not be over 30, I thought it might be fun to check out WhoWhatWear's suggestions and see where I stack up:

1. Super duper low rise jeans. 
I don't have any problem with this suggestion. I've never been a fan of jeans that expose the top of my butt crack when I sit down and I've tried to rid them from my closet ages ago.

2. Your job interview suit that you wore in your 20s. 
But what if my job interview suit from my 20s still works? I mean, it's not like my original suit came from the junior department of JC Penny's (no offense if yours did). I think it's okay to hold on to that original suit if it's a classic and still fits as long as you can mix and match it with fresh pieces.

3. Little Girl Shoes (saddle shoes, Mary Janes, etc.) 
I think saddle shoes and Mary Janes are awesome. Yeah Mary Janes' can cut your leg line and make short people look shorter, but they're also cute. I also like WhoWhatWear's suggested pointy toe shoes and espadrilles.  

4. Any and all tube tops.
I think that if you've got rockin' arms and your over 30, then go for it; but as for myself and the rest of us, tube tops are now shelved in the underwear category.

5. Your old denim mini-skirts.
I don't think I've owned a denim mini-skirt past the age of 8.

6. Your "body con" dress once exclusively reserved for "going out".
I've never been a fan of the "body con" dress as I don't like clothes that cling to my hips.

7. Any fast-fashion pieces that you never, ever wear. 
I recently got rid of a lot of my old, unworn fast-fashion pieces in my "great closet purge of 2014" (that's what I secretly call my post-Wardrobe Architect closet clean-out) and I still have an extra bag of fast-fashion clothes ready to eBay. I'm all about having a closet with a few quality pieces rather than tons of cheap, trendy stuff.

8. Bridesmaid dresses
Luckily I've only been a bridesmaid twice and neither one of those dresses fit me anymore and have since been purged. When I planned my own wedding I told my bridesmaid what color I wanted and offered suggestions, but I let her pick out the dress.

9. Jewelry that makes your skin turn green.
Fun fact: I seem to have developed a mild cheap metal allergy in my mid-20s so now I rarely wear jewelry made from alloys. I've been meaning to get rid of some of the pieces that never get worn.

10. Poorly fitting clothing.
There's no reason to hang onto clothes that don't fit anymore in the hope that someday you'll be able to squeeze into them (or conversely someday you might put-on weight). Who's to say you'll even WANT to wear those clothes if you ever actually do manage to fit back into them again. I agree that it's best to have clothes that fit your body RIGHT NOW.

11. Festive tights or stockings.
I'm not saying that everyone should wear Christmas Tree tights whenever they want, but I think festive tights and stockings can still be fun in your 30's if worn at the right time and place.

12. Denim skorts.
Not that I have one but, what's wrong with a denim skort!? I thought skorts were making a comeback!? I don't understand why it's okay to wear a Zara skort or a leather skort, but a denim skort is unacceptable. I think it's only a matter of time before Urban Outfitters is selling denim skorts to college kids.

Zara skorts 

13. Reversible pieces.
I think reversible pieces are awesome! I love their versatility! They're literally two-pieces-in-one. I wish that stores offered more reversible pieces.

14. Novelty headbands.
What's the difference between a novelty headband and an embellished headband? I'm pretty sure it's okay for people over 30 to wear novelty headbands as long as they're subtle and not completely koo-koo (unless the koo-koo look is your thing).

15. Tutu skirts.
I think women in their 30s can wear a tutu skirt if they want.

16. Your patent leather platform pumps.
I have a hard time walking in heels, therefore I avoid them. But if you're in your 30's and you like patent leather platform pumps, I say go for it.

17. Leggings, unless they're for the gym.
I subscribe to the notion that leggings are NOT pants (unless you're a pre-pubescent girl). I feel like leggings can be worn with tunics that cover your bum, under dresses, or to the gym and that is all.

18. Hot pants.
Hot pants = underwear

19. Ultra-chunky shoes.
On one hand if I wear a pair of shoes that's too chunky I feel like they're weighing me down and I start to feel a bit like Frankenstein. On the other hand, I really want a pair of Doc Marten boots.

20. Micro mini-skirts.
I think that if you're blessed with a pair of awesome legs, then go ahead and flaunt them when it's appropriate. But I won't be wearing many micro minis anytime soon.

21. Old tattered sneakers that you love but never ever wear. 
As with poorly fitting clothing, ill fitting or tattered shoes also need to go. Be grateful for the journeys you had while wearing your old shoes, throw them out and move on.

22. Cat shirts.
What's wrong with cat shirts (or fox shirts, or elephant shirts, or any kind of animal shirts really)!? Cats are awesome! I strongly disagree with this!

23. Your sorority shirts.
I was never in a sorority, but I did rack up a nice collection of theater t-shirts and sweatshirts when I participated in high school drama. And those t-shirts are neatly tucked away in a drawer at my parent's house across the pond.

24. Holey socks and underwear.
I totally agree with this but, what about er...um...(male readers look away) when "Aunt Erma comes to town"? You know, when you have the mensies? Accidents happen and I don't like to risk ruining a nice pair of undies when it's that time of the month. I know there are special undies available now, but until those suckers become more mainstream, I think it's a good idea to hang on to a few pairs of less pristine panties for those special days.

25. Fringe shirts.  
I still think of fringe shirts as country/western wear which isn't really my thing so this isn't a problem for me. I think fringe is cool on your bag and accessories, but not on your shirt.

As a woman who may or may not be in her 30s, I have come to the conclusion that there are some fashion trends that just don't suit me and I am at a point in my life where I've tried being trendy and now I'd rather focus on building a wardrobe with a few classic quality pieces rather than a bunch of cheap trendy items. However, I don't think there's a definitive list of clothing items that you HAVE to cast off when you've reached your 30s; I think that by the time you've reached your 30s you've had time to figure out what works best for you and if you can still pull off a micro mini then do it.

Have you checked out WhoWhatWear's list? What do you think about about their selections? How do you stack up? Let me know in the comments below.

New Year's Resolutions Halfway Check

Monday, July 14, 2014
At the beginning of the year I posted my New Year's Resolutions for 2014 and now that we're over halfway through the year, I thought I would revisit these goals and update you on my progress. 

  • Travel- I have done a bit of traveling this year. I've been to Birmingham, Newcastle, York, Nottingham, Stonehenge, Windsor, Eye, Snettisham Farm, as well as several National Trust sites and my usual haunts like London, Cambridge and Bury St. Edmunds. However, I still haven't left the island as my previous travel plans got put on hold due to my husband's work schedule, but I hope to fit some more outtings in before the summer is over and I definitely plan to get off of the island before the year is through.

  • Read More Books- I've tried to keep up with A Beautiful Mess' book club, but I'm still working on their May selection, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, which was over 700 pages long. I'm finally getting close to the end and luckily the June and July reads aren't as long, so hopefully I can catch up before the summer is through.

  • Work Out- I haven't done well following through with this goal. During the school year my excuse was that I was too tired to work out or it was getting dark too early (and my job seemed like it was enough of a workout by itself), and now that I have more free time my excuses have been the wet weather or I'm just not motivated to do it. I need to find a way to pencil this in.

  • Keep Crafting- I have been doing a LOT of crafting lately. Earlier this year I finished my wedding album. Last month I focused on my knitting and now I've got 3 sweaters that just need the tails woven in and photographed. Recently, I've been sewing and finished Gertie's Slip Sew Along (if you follow me on Instagram you've already seen it. Blog post coming soon), I hemmed a ready-to-wear-skirt, I plan on finishing the Lladybird and Untangling Knots' 2014 Outfit Along, and I have another skirt to hem. 

  • Keep up with the Blog- I'd say this goal is still a work in progress. I've been doing my best to keep up with the blog and social media, but sometimes I get distracted and life gets in the way. Just know that I'm still here and I'm doing my best. 

What's Making Me Laugh: The IT Crowd

Sunday, July 13, 2014
This weekend I decided to reacquaint myself with one my my favorite TV Shows, The It Crowd (which I've previously talked about in my original post about My Favorite British TV Shows that my American Friends Should be Watching). It's funny how many more jokes you pick up on when you watch a show the second time around, and now that I live in England I understand so many more British jokes. 

Side note: While I was re-watching The IT Crowd's behind the scenes special, Noel Fielding (aka Richmond) said that he is used to being typecast in roles as a Goth/Rocker and I thought that somebody should cast him in a romantic comedy. If you end up writing a hit romantic-comedy script with Noel Fielding, don't forget to credit me with the idea.  

Here's a clip for you non-football (soccer) fans out there.

Anyways, if you're looking for a good laugh this weekend check out or re-visit The IT Crowd which is available on Netflix, Hulu, and 4oD.

What I'm Listening To: The Shins- "So Now What"

Saturday, July 12, 2014

I wouldn't call myself a huge fan of the band, The Shins, although it seemed like a lot of people went gaga over them after they were featured on the soundtrack to Garden State. To me, the band's music was too soft and light and made me want to fall asleep. But now that I'm a little older and I just previewed Zach Braff's newest film, Wish I Was Here via Kickstarter (a crowd funding website for independent projects), I can't get their song, "So Now What", out of my head. I guess tastes change.

So I guess I should disclose that I was able to preview the film before it's release because I was a Kickstarter backer; and I know that the fact that Zach Braff asked for funding via Kickstarter and later received funding from an movie backer has been met with some controversy  and it has polarized many peoples opinions of the film even before it's been released (some people really love the idea of using Kickstarter to get backing for films that may otherwise have not been produced, while others feel like Braff took advantage of his fans and Kickstarter backers because he's obviously not poor and had other means and connections that he could have used to get funding). I chose to back the project because I enjoyed Braff's previous film, Garden State, and I liked the concept and casting ideas for this new project, plus it enabled me to feel like I played a tiny role in helping a major motion picture get made which is not an opportunity that most Midwestern girls/ UK transports get to have. And I felt like the perks of getting updates about the film as it was being made and being able to watch the film at home before it's release was an even greater reward for my small contribution (which was close to the equivalent of a British Cineworld movie ticket).

The film has a stellar cast including Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin, Josh Gad, Donald Faison as well as Braff himself (that's right, J.D. and Turk are back together again), and the film very much carries on the same tone as Garden State, as we find the main character facing a major crossroad in life. But, this film has a more mature story-line as the characters struggle with parenting, taking care of a sick parent, perusing their dreams, and struggles with work. You'll relate with the characters, you'll laugh, you'll cry and you'll love this film. I Wish I Was Here hits US theaters on July 18th, Singapore July 31st, France August 13th, the UK September 19th, and Germany October 9th.

The Leather Fanny Pack Questions

Friday, July 11, 2014
The Leather Fanny Pack is one of the newest blogs that I am following, written by 22 year-old Raissa who has great rocker/glam/chic style. Definitely check out her blog.
Anyways, The Leather Fanny Pack recently received a "Liebster Award" and in response she posted 11 questions for her readers to answer, so I thought I'd post my response.
  1. A DIY you’ve always wanted to try?

  • Glass blowing; weaving; mixing drinks; sewing my own wardrobe.
2.  Does your heritage or upbringing influence your style?
  • I don't really think so. My heritage is pretty typical Caucasian-American: German, English, and a tiny bit Dutch and Native American. I grew up in the mid-west (well, more like mid-mid west- the middle of the country) which seems to experience a lot of weather extremes so my wardrobe consists of several bulky sweaters to get through the bitter cold of winter, as well as lots of t-shirts and shorts for the hot summers and layering pieces for in-between. 
3.  What does “ugly” mean to you?
  • Depending on the context, ugly can mean unpleasant, repulsive, displeasing to the eye, spiteful or hateful, grave, despicable or appalling. 
4. Have you ever had a paranormal experience?
  • Not that I can recall, but I had a crazy fear of being abducted by aliens in my tween years and as a teen I loved the movie, The Craft, and was obsessed with reading about the occult. 
5. What is your favorite article of clothing?
  • It's really hard to pick out just one article of clothing, but I'll say that I'm still having a love affair with my striped Banana Republic ballet scoop neck top.
similar (Banana Republic Timeless Tee)

6.  What is your dream job?
  • I would love to have my own Art Therapy/ art studio and work with kids.
7.  Favorite song to sing when you’re alone?
8.  If you died and came back as a ghost, who would you haunt? And what would you be wearing?
  • I think that if I died I'd probably come back as a ghost and haunt my husband, but not in a scary way. I'd just keep up with chores around the house and hang out like I normally do, only I'd wear a dress like Keira Knightley's Daily Show Valentino dress.

9.  If you could wear anything with no judgement, what would you wear?
  • A crop top and a full sleeve of tattoos.
10. What do you value most in a relationship (romantic or otherwise)?
  • Loyalty, honesty, intelligence, a sense of humor, drive to pursue their own interests. 
11. Describe yourself in at least five positive words.
  • Caring, Creative, Supportive, Patient, and (lately) Independent. 

What is Keeping You From Achieving Your Dreams Right Now?

Thursday, July 10, 2014
Image via Delightfully Tacky
This week Elizabeth of the blog Delightfully Tacky posed a question that's been on my mind recently, "What's keeping you from achieving your dreams right now?". When I ruminate over this question a lot of reasons instantly come to mind.

Time vs. Money
One factor that seems to hold me back from achieving my dreams is time and money. It always seems like when I have plenty of free-time to accomplish my goals I'm lacking in money. Conversely, it seems that when I do have the funds to achieve my goals, then I don't have the time to do it. Sound familiar?

I realize there are ways to combat this problem like with careful planning. If I purchase all of the things that I need when I have money, then I can complete them when I have the time to do them. But sometimes that's easier said than done.

Another factor that comes into play is location. I found it really difficult to pursue my career goals in my hometown because there weren't very many people who understood what my degree was in or the value in what I could offer. And after moving to the English countryside, I quickly found that my job options were limited to the military base or surrounding area (unless I wanted to go back to school again, complete a lot of complicated and expensive paperwork, or travel over 2.5 hours to work one-way) and I was faced with the same struggles that I had at home. So there's always a part of me that wonders if I would have an easier time accomplishing my goals if I lived closer to a larger city with a larger creative community.

Fear/ Lack of Motivation
I have a tendency to over-think things, which can be a good thing in some instances (i.e. if there is ever a tornado in England, I have a safety plan), but sometimes I can let those "what if" scenarios overwhelm me to the point where they paralyze me and I just shut down or give up altogether.

Also, like Elizabeth at Delightfully Tacky, I crave approval. I was taught that hard work = approval, recognition, and success. But, as I've gotten older I've learned that this does not necessarily translate into the real working world. I've worked in plenty of jobs where I was busting my ass and felt like I was doing good work, only to find that my co-workers who didn't seem to care about their work were getting all of the promotions. And when that happened it was very easy to loose heart and motivation for what I was doing.

While achieving my goals is an ever changing work-in-progress, here are some things that have been helpful.

  • Break down your goal into small achievable tasks. I like to make lists on Google Docs or Notepad to review everyday and I get a sense of achievement every-time I cross one of those tasks off the list.
  • Talk about your goals (or blog about them). Sometimes it helps me feel more accountable and motivated to achieve my goals if I tell someone else about my goals. This appeals to the part of me that craves approval, because I feel like I would be letting other people down if I don't accomplish the goals I said I was going to do.
  • Reward yourself for accomplishing tasks. When I accomplish a task on my list I'll often reward myself by getting a latte or cupcake or taking myself out to a movie that I've been wanting to see. I'll also reward myself if I've had a particularly stressful day at work to motivate myself to keep going.
  • Focus on you own accomplishments. When you see other people people getting rewarded while your efforts are going unnoticed, it's easy to get bummed out. Try to focus and remind yourself of your own achievements. You might not be getting recognized for your achievements right now, but eventually other's may take notice.
  • Remember:

This has become my mantra. 
Don't let other people dictate whether you're happy or not. If you're truly unhappy right now, make a plan to change it (of course, if you're unable to come up with a plan on your own, you can always seek professional assistance).

What's Making Me Laugh: David Brent Singing "If You Don't Know Me By Now"

Sunday, July 6, 2014

This week I stumbled on this hilarious gem from Ricky Gervais' Facebook Page. British Office Fan's should recognize that David Brent is the name of bumbling boss from the Office played by Ricky Gervais which makes this cheesy version of Simply Red's "If You Don't Know Me By Now" better than the original. 

What I'm Listening To: Dolly Parton Singing "Jolene" at Glastonbury

Saturday, July 5, 2014

It was all about Glastonbury last week and Dolly Parton was the main event. While I didn't visit Glastonbury in person, I was able to watch all of my favorite artists from the comforts of my own home via the BBC. If you missed it, check out this video of Dolly Parton performing "Jolene" at Glastonbury. My favorite part is where they show the bouncers dancing in unison.

My Favorite British TV Shows: Take 2

Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Summer may be my favorite time of the year because I enjoy the warm weather, sunshine and 2-3 months where kids are out of school and therefore I don't have to go to work. However, Summer can be a terrible time for watching television because it seems that all of my favorite shows decide to air their finales and go on hiatus at the same time that I have all of this free-time. Sound familiar?

But, Summer can be the perfect time to catch up on shows that you might have missed out on. Last year I shared with you a list of British TV shows that my American (and other non-British) readers should be watching, and since then I've continued to keep up with British programming. Here's my new list of British television shows that my non-British readers should be watching.

10. The Graham Norton Show Available on BBC1 and BBC America
If you follow my What's Making Me Laugh series, you've no doubt seen me post several clips from The Graham Norton Show. If you don't, The Graham Norton show is a weekly evening talk show with celebrity guests and it features a segment called "The Red Chair" in which members of the audience are asked to tell their most funny/embarrassing story while setting in a red chair and if Graham or the celebrity guests don't like the story they'll pull a lever and flip the storyteller out of the chair. This show is hilarious and blows anything from the current U.S. TV talk shows out of the water.

9. Episodes Available on BBC2 and Showtime
I was put-off about watching Episodes because I worried that the premise sounded too similar to the show, Extras, but I'm glad I gave it a chance (and ended up binge watching all 3 seasons in just 3 days). This show follows a happily married British couple who are invited to The States to create an American version of their BAFTA winning television show...and it's all downhill from there. The show features Matt LeBlanc from Friends.

8. Moone Boy Available on Sky TV 1 and Hulu
Fans of the It Crowd's Chris O'Dowd will enjoy watching him in the Irish comedy, Moone Boy, that is both co-written and co-starring O'Dowd. The show follows a young boy growing up in the Irish countryside in the late 80s/ early 90s. This show is funny, heartwarming at times, and innovative.

7. Broadchurch Available on ITV and BBC America
Here's one for you Dr. Who fans (particularly from the David Tennant era) and also fans of The Killing. In Broadchurch, Tennant plays a detective who recently moved to the country side with his family to escape scandal only to be put on the case to track down the murderer of an eleven year old boy. If you want added incentive to check this out, The Fox Network is planning to make an American version of this show called Gracepoint also starring Tennant.

6. Gadget Man Available on Channel 4 and YouTube
Another one for fans of the It Crowd as series 2 stars Richard Ayoade (series 1 starred Stephen Fry). The series explores the latest innovations in technology- sometimes in hilarious ways. It's a bit like watching a live action The Jetsons.

5. Fargo Available on Channel 4 and FX
Fargo is an American dark comedy based on the Cohen brother's 1996 film of the same name. Like the movie, the show starts out with the words "This is a true story" and takes place in the northern US. However the premise is entirely different and follows the 2006 chance meeting of Lorne Malvo and Lester Nygaard and Malvo's influence on Nygaard. This show features a great cast including Billy Bob Thonrton, Martin Freeman, Colin Hanks and Bob Odenkirk. This is gripping television.

4. The Paradise Available on BBC 1, BBC America and Masterpiece
If you're looking for a costumed period drama to tide you over until the next season of Downton Abbey is released, check out The Paradise based off of the novel Au Bonheur des Dames by Emile' Zola. This series takes place around 1875 and follows the lives and loves of the people that work in one of England's first department stores, The Paradise.

3. Mr. Selfridge Available on ITV and Masterpiece

Here's another period drama based around a department store. Mr. Selfridge is based on the real life flamboyant and visionary American founder of the London based Selfridges department store.

2. The White Queen Available on BBC1 and Starz
Fans of The Tudors will love the series, The White Queen, based on Phlippa Gregory's historical novel series, The Cousin's War and set against the backdrop of the War of the Roses. The series begins in 1464 as The House of York and House of Lancaster are in conflict. This series is full of sex, war and beautiful costumes.

1. I Wanna Marry Harry Available on ITV and HULU
This was my go-to guilty pleasure show, and I was crushed when I found out that Fox pulled the plug before the final 2 episodes aired. Yes, the plot is stupid and sounds remarkably similar to Joe Millionaire (i.e. Poor guy gets made up pretends to be rich; lies to a random group of women competing for his affections and hopes that they'll fall in love with the 'real him'. If woman stays with him after he reveals the lie then they both get paid; if not they're broke). But, sometimes you just want to watch a show that lets you take your mind off of other things.


Also worth mentioning: 

The Crimson Field Available on BBC1
This drama takes place at a French hospital camp near the battlefields during World War I. It's got all of the drama of Call the Midwife, but on a battlefield.

Peaky Blinders Available on BBC2
With all of the grit of Boardwalk Empire or The Wire, Peaky Blinders following a Birmingham gangster family in 1919. It also stars Cillian Murphy and Sam Neil.

Misfits Available on Channel 4 and Hulu
This show is described as a sci-fi, comedy/drama about a group of young convicts doing community service that get struck by lightning and develop super-powers. It combines three genres that I like and sounds interesting.

Fresh Meat Available on Channel 4 and Hulu
A hilarious comedy following a group of students at Uni (University to you Yanks) by the creators of Peep Show. Fans of The Inbetweeners will recognize Joe Thomas.
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